Juhu’s glow-in-the-dark beach

bright Blue sea:Plankton bioluminescence lights up waves at Juhu jetty.— Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For the second time this year, waves at Juhu beach were lit in ‘neon’ as curious onlookers gathered late on Thursday. The rare natural occurrence, in which the water turn a fluorescent blue, is known as ‘bioluminescence’ and is caused by dinoflagellete, a plankton found in coastal areas.

Dr. Anand Pendharkar, wildlife biologist and founder-director of environmental trust Sprouts, said when the plankton lash against each other, they emit light as a reaction to stress caused by water, which lights up the waves in neon blue. Dr. Parvish Pandya, assistant professor of Zoology and vice-principal, Bhavan’s College in Andheri, hotfooted it to the beach after a student, Nilesh Mane, called him a little after 9 p.m. on Wednesday. “This lovely phenomenon is a must-see for Mumbaikars,” he said. “”It can surface anywhere, and that’s the mystery.”

Zoology student Abir Jain, 21, experienced the neon waves first-hand in January. “One night, a friend from Juhu sent an image of the waves on WhatsApp and asked me what it was. At first, I thought she was playing a prank, but on visiting the beach, I came across this fascinating experience, romantic in its own way. The Juhu skyline and the waves were adding up to a mesmerising effect.”

This phenomenon is not common on the West coast, and was visible in January after a very long time, he said. “The National Geographic Traveller reported these images first, and shared it on Facebook.”

Mr. Jain collected samples for research, and it led him to a species called Noctiluca, commonly known as sea tinkle, a non-parasitic marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that shows bioluminiscence when disturbed. “This occurs when they get disturbed by a harder surface. They get heated up and agitated,” he said.

Nilesh Mane, 22, a city lad studying Ecology and Environment Conservation at n Pondicherry University, also witnessed the phenomenon in January. “This generally happens during the full moon and when there is a change in the water current. The micro-organisms get hit and come up. But in the end, they die, since they are very sensitive,” he said.

What is bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is a property seen in a wide range of organisms, including glow-worms, plankton, fungi, bac teria and fireflies. The key reaction in bioluminescence involves the light-emitting pigment called luciferin. It is thought to be a defence mechanism employed to either scare off predators, or a communication system to attract potential mates.

Glowing phytoplankton are a common sight along several coasts around the world, though rare in India. Experts have suggested that changing weather patterns may have a role in such plankton blooms.

With inputs from Jacob Koshy

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:27:03 AM |

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